Scalability. It’s all about moving up: Optimizing, streamlining, refining, and perfecting your processes, expanding your team’s capacity, and supporting the needs of your business as it grows. It’s a measure of how well a company can grow from a small entity to a large one.
There are a lot of contributing factors to how well a business can scale. It might come down to the tech you have at your disposal or how good your team is at adapting to new processes. It’s possible that certain parts of your business might scale better than others.
Customer support is one area that can be especially difficult to scale. But great customer support is necessary for your business to succeed. Without quality support, you won’t be able to keep customers around and support metrics like CSAT and NPS will suffer – hurting retention and your ability to grow.
Conversely, with great support, you’ll ensure happier customers. Plus, with new approaches to scaling customer support, you can maintain a positive employee experience, too – all of which builds toward a better quality support experience for customers.
So, how do you go about scaling a customer support experience that meets the demands of a growing business while keeping your support team engaged and motivated?
Let’s check out four tactics you can use to supercharge your team and get prepared for the road ahead.
4 Tactics You Can Use to Scale Customer Support
The type of growth we’re looking for revolves around building replicable processes, utilizing time-saving technology, and ideally, maximizing staff potential without overburdening them. Let’s look at the first tactic: using automation to take over manual work.
1. Leverage automation to reduce manual work
Sometimes customer service automation gets a bad rap. The main issue most had with early automation efforts was that they tended to feel impersonal, and weren’t particularly efficient for the customer, just the company.
The truth is that automation is only worth it if it doesn’t compromise the overall customer experience. And that can be a bit of a balancing act. What it comes down to is being very intentional about the processes you choose to automate.
One great place to start is by automatically sorting support requests. Most help desk software offers the ability to add tags to messages based on rules you set. For example, you could set a rule that a “billing” tag should be added to any incoming message containing language about payments in the message and then be automatically sent to a billing-specific inbox.
You could even set up an initial response that includes links to knowledge base articles on the topic they’re contacting you about. For many, it’s possible those articles contain the answer they need, and proactively sharing them means the customer can solve their issue faster.
Another way to leverage automation is to create a bank of canned (pre-written) responses. Instead of writing out the same response to similar questions over and over, you can simply use the pre-written response to decrease handle time. This is relatively basic automation that’s a standard in most ticketing systems these days – so it’s a simple tactic, but effective. Once you’re ready to implement artificial intelligence technologies, these responses can feed into that process. Something I highly recommend is to allow reps to add personal touches and customize your canned responses as needed so that you avoid coming across as robotic or rigid.
One way to address this same problem at a higher level is to direct customers to ask questions in your customer support community or to start by searching there (more on this in the next section).
As with any new effort, it’s important that you test out everything you do to make sure it’s an optimal experience for the customer and your staff. Also remember, just because something works well today, it may not stay that way forever. So, be sure you have a regular cadence to review any automation effort to make sure it’s still serving everyone well.
2. Lean on a customer community for peer-to-peer support
Anyone who’s worked in customer service knows that it's not uncommon for customers to teach you things about your product. Maybe you’ve seen them come up with a creative workaround or valuable (even game-changing) product enhancement that you hadn’t considered.
Though your customers have a great wealth of knowledge, that knowledge isn’t always accessible to others – unless you’ve built an online customer community. If you’re not familiar, online customer communities are where your customers can connect with one another, share insights, and find education.
Online customer communities are a great resource to utilize to help scale your support operation and improve customer support as a whole. The name of the game is scaling customer interactions – and a customer community is how you make those important peer-to-peer and peer-to-staff interactions happen consistently.
The classic pitch for customer communities is case deflection. Though that’s absolutely a great use of a customer community, it’s just one small use. A community is a valuable tool to further engage customers and foster stronger brand connections. Customer communities also empower customers to find answers on their own, which can make a much more seamless customer experience.
3. Build a strong knowledge base
Your customers want to self-serve, according to Forrester Research. Though it might seem counterintuitive (now they’re doing the work instead of being served), it makes sense. They’re busy, and they don’t want to put aside what they’re doing to contact an agent.
A great way to create self-service opportunities is your knowledge base. Knowledge bases allow your customers to solve issues on their own, and at their own pace. It’s an empowering experience.
However, not all knowledge bases are created equal. Many of us have experienced clicking through a bunch of links just to find a company’s knowledge base. After getting past that first hurdle, you still face the issue of actually finding the information you’re seeking, all of which adds up to a less-than-stellar experience.
In order to give the best experience when using a knowledge base, there are a few things to focus on.
- Make your knowledge base easy to find. Placing a link in the main navigation bar of your website or at the bottom of your homepage. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s easily accessible.
- Group related articles under different sections to make navigation easier. For example, you may have a section for billing, common account issues, and troubleshooting guides. You could also consider having some sort of internal search to make the process even faster.
- Regularly update content so articles are helpful and relevant. You might even consider setting up a regular cadence to have your support team go through articles to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Remember, when you make your knowledge base more accessible, and usable, not only do you improve their self-service experience, but you improve the overall customer experience, too.
4. Make sure onboarding sets support staff up for success
One of the best ways you can help scale your support team is to make sure you’re getting the most out of everyone on the team. The best way to do that is by making sure you’re offering comprehensive training for anyone who joins your team, as well as opportunities for continued development for current employees.
Comprehensive training helps you scale better in two main ways:
- When you have strong onboarding processes, you’re able to get new hires up-to-speed faster. Not only does it mean they’ll learn quicker, but they’ll also be more equipped to start handling requests sooner.
- For existing team members, additional training can help maintain engagement. And engaged employees are productive employees. In fact, around 86% of employees say job training and development is important to them. Additional training and development opportunities are also a great way to show how committed you are to existing staff.
Depending on the size of your organization and the resources you have available to you, you might take a few different approaches to onboarding. For those in earlier stages, it probably makes sense to start by creating internal documents. Make sure to consult your most senior team members to understand what any potential new hire needs to be successful.
For those in larger companies with more resources at their disposal, it may be worth taking the time to build out a formal training program, and possibly even consider having dedicated staff for training.
Bonus: Review documentation. In addition to onboarding and professional development, ensure you document and continually update your standard operating procedures (SOPs). Solving common issues becomes much easier and faster your team knows exactly where to go for guidance.
Your Hard Work Will Pay Off with an Improved Support Experience
Maintaining quality while growing your support team can be hard. But with the right suite of processes and tools, you can grow your capacity while maintaining quality.
Introducing automation and building out a robust knowledge base can be great places to start your scaling efforts.
From there, consider creative solutions like building out an online customer community. The investment in an online community not only helps scale your support operation but can help further engage your audience and improve brand loyalty.
Finally, you need to think about how you’re training new staff you bring onto the team and how you’re continuing to develop existing staff to make sure they’re properly supported and able to do their best work. Remember, your staff is the most important piece of the puzzle. So, almost any investment you make in them will pay off in the long run.
As long as you keep the success of your customers and staff at the center of your efforts you’ll be heading in the right direction.
Rick is the Director of Global Customer Support for Higher Logic. He’s been passionate about building and scaling world-class customer service organizations for the past decade. Before coming to Higher Logic in August 2020, he spent 5 years with Snagajob, leading the evolution of their customer support functions for applicant tracking and onboarding software.